Big discounts drew long lines and big crowds to the nation's stores and even gave a boost to the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average finished a shortened trading day up 172 points, to 13,009, the Dow's first close above 13,000 in more than two weeks.
Chavis and Simmons said that their combined incomes and shrewd budgeting allowed them to spend close to $600 Friday and that they plan to spend another $515 on merchandise on layaway.
"They have some awesome sales," gushed Sharre Speight, 33, as she and daughter, Akeima Gibbs, 10, surveyed their $250 of Gallery purchases.
Speight, who recently got a temporary job with Medicare, said she also spent $250 at the Metroplex mall in Plymouth Meeting and put $500 worth of items on layaway at the Gallery.
"We thought we were not even going to have a Christmas this year," said Speight, who was hired in September after being out of work for a year and is hopeful of finding a permanent job.
Deborah Stewart said bringing her three grandchildren to the Gallery on Black Friday has become a family tradition. That tradition includes riding to the mall on one of five SEPTA "Santa Express" trains, which were decked out with decorations and plenty of Santa's elves and helpers.
Stewart and her grandchildren joined riders from the four other trains in a parade to the mall led by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"I love it. It's calm down here. We've been doing this for years," said Stewart, as her grandchildren Montana, 11; Hasan, 13, and Madison, 15, clutched bags containing a Barbie, cosmetics and Nike hoodies.
But all was not cheerful in Center City. At 11th and Market, in front of Burlington Coat Factory, a group of animal-rights activists handed anti-fur fliers to passersby and hoisted gruesome posters depicting animals that they said had been killed for their fur.
"We could do this year-round, but today . . . is the day that people start doing their Christmas shopping, and they might be buying items with fur," said Marianne Bessey, a founder of Animal ACTivists of Philly. "This is a way to put a focus on the issue."